Uber and Lyft Drivers Under Assault From Seattle City Bosses

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The “gig economy” is often driven by new mobile apps that empower individual entrepreneurs such as independent Uber and Lyft Drivers. But Seattle city bosses have teamed up with their union-boss friends to put the squeeze on these entrepreneurs. They passed a city ordinance to force Uber and Lyft drivers to pay union dues. Under the terms of ordinance, if drivers refuse, they cannot serve Seattle.

With the assistance of National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, independent drivers in Washington State who pick up customers with the help of a ride-sharing company are challenging the controversial Seattle ordinance that is designed to corral them into unions and force them to pay union dues or fees in order to continue practicing their trade.

At a federal court hearing in February, Seattle City Council lawyer Casey Pitts defended the pro-union monopoly ordinance. He admitted Teamster union bosses helped concoct the city’s imposition of “exclusive” union representation on independent drivers.

More than 9000 Uber and Lyft drivers could soon be forced to pay union dues if the current injunction on this ordinance is removed and it is allowed to take effect.

The ordinance constitutes a triple assault on these drivers’ free choice.

  • First, it authorizes and promotes union monopoly bargaining over and forced-dues extractions from independent drivers.
  • Second, it empowers union bosses to get the power to represent all covered drivers on matters concerning their livelihood through a “card check,” in which “votes” are cast under the observation of often aggressive union organizers, rather than through a secret-ballot election.
  • Third, the ordinance actually authorizes union bosses to get monopoly-bargaining power over many drivers who won’t even be allowed to register their opposition first by refusing to sign a unionization card. Only so-called “qualified” drivers — who constitute an estimated 44% of all Uber and Lyft drivers in Seattle — will be allowed to participate in the “card check” by signing or refusing to sign a union card.

Fortunately, enforcement of the Seattle scheme has been temporarily blocked as a consequence of another lawsuit filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In Dan Clark v. City of Seattle, National Right to Work Foundation attorneys are attempting, on behalf of their driver clients, to get the ordinance permanently thrown out. Citing multiple precedents in which courts blocked union bosses from seizing monopoly-bargaining power over independent contractors, they are contending the ordinance is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act and violates the First Amendment rights of independent drivers.

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel that heard the case should ultimately side with independent driver Dan Clark and his plaintiffs. Otherwise, a new door may open to the coercive unionization of independent contractors nationwide and stifle individuals’ money-making opportunities. (Photo below courtesy of funnyordie.com.)